Snowflakes are beautiful to look at. They float down from above in unique shapes, as if they are stars, made of ice. They are weightless; you wouldn’t feel them if they settle in the palm of your hand unless they ball up in your hands. Like the water evaporation system, snowfalls also follow a simple little process. Little specks of dust get coated with ice as they blow around in the winds through the fluffy clouds. This lead to the formation of floating ice stars – and the rest is history.
It is often said, that no two snowflakes are ever the same. A question arises – is it true? This question has been a puzzler, even for a Moneesh Upmanyu. He is a mechanical and industrial engineering professor at Northeastern University. Yet, unlike others, he sought to find out the answer and didn’t fail. Upmanyu says that snowflakes exhibit similar characteristics at a molecular level. It wouldn’t matter if they are not the same in appearance. Snowflakes and their shape have two determiners. Those are temperature and the humidity of the air during its formation. One can divide snowflakes into eight general categories. Water molecules change into dendrite-like shape like the branches of a tree. The snowflakes need some way to diffuse the heat. Hence, they adopt a spherical shape, with tiny needle-like structure, facing outwards. The temperature is an important factor in the mixture of snowflakes and water molecules. Upmanyu says, “Humidity controls how many water molecules saturating the air are available over the course of its growth”.
As per Upmanyu, one can never see a particular shape of snowflakes in a snowstorm, for obvious reasons. If and only if you own a microscope or a computer imaging software, then you’ll be able to tell the difference apart. “Even in a controlled environment, you might only be able to see two different forms,” Upmanyu stated. But, with the chaos of the swirling ice, you could only see clusters of it in dumps.
It is annoying when snowflakes make slush puddles and make your life a living hell during winter. But you have to admit the surreal beauty of these floating ice crystals!